Archive for the ‘Learned from Children’ Category

As parents we have responsibility to love, nurture, provide, teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society. Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives. I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me. This lesson comes from my #3 child, Joshua

My grandchildren—and their parents before them—always love a carousel.  It’s fun—for them and for me to see their joy—but it just keeps going around, again and again.

I’ve always been a slow learner—in lessons that matter.  I think it has to do with my stubbornness, my lifelong journey toward surrendering my way and choosing God’s way.  So I seem to spend a lot of time on the carousel—learning the same things again and again.

Our son, Joshua, now 30, was God’s sharp instrument to teach me some invaluable truths in the years of his teenage (and longer) wilderness:

God never gives up on me.

So often I was ready to give up—because of many choices he made.  This became clearest to me through homeschooling, which we were doing in hopes that he might actually graduate.  But he really wasn’t interested.

I would give him his assignments, listen to his arguments, and walk out of his room almost every day saying the same thing:  “I give up.  He doesn’t care—why should I?”  And every day God responded with the same words:  “Have I ever given up on you, Judy?” “Never, Lord.” “And I need you to not give up on Josh.”

So I kept going, and he graduated from high school with a B average.  For which he is grateful.

I am weak and prayer is my strength.

Those were hard years, filled with lots of tears and fears.  Nothing we tried seemed to help Josh make better choices for his life.  We were desperate.

So we did what most people do when they are desperate.  We prayed.  I’m sure our prayers had significant impact on Josh—God was very creative.  But I’m also sure that our prayers had even more significant impact on our lives—especially mine.

Prayer became not just frequent conversations with God, telling Him how I was doing and what I needed.  Prayer became my life breath.  It became a constant communion with God, pouring out my heart, listening to what He was saying, surrendering my requests/demands to His will.  Prayer became my response to His invitation, my resting in His welcoming arms.

I am so grateful.

Unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.

One of the joys of parenting young children is all the hugs, kisses and love they usually give.  By the time they are teenagers we can’t always count on that, and we miss it.  Josh, though, had a prior allegiance to the birth mother he spent his first eight years with.  He couldn’t betray her by loving me

I understood that.  I was patient.  My love for this boy God had entrusted to us grew and expanded.  And eventually I yearned to hear him say, “I love you.”  I begged God to open his mouth to say those words.

So clearly, though, God said, “Judy, by definition unconditional love doesn’t require love in return.  If he never says ‘I love you’ to you, I am calling you and enabling you to keep on loving.”  So I kept loving, not perfectly of course, but perseveringly.

It took 13 years before he could say those words.  I am so grateful I waited.

These lessons have been so real to me—over time and with people and in trials. They speak to core issues of my trust in God. Mostly I have remembered them and recognized the truths as still true—and reckoned them as reality—by the power of the Spirit—in my life.

But the past six months have felt like we have gone back 10 years, like I have forgotten those lessons, like I am starting over.  We have gone through some hard things, and some of my same old responses have surfaced.

I have felt like giving up.  And God has said, “I still haven’t given up on you.  Keep believing.”

I have felt my weakness, and once again prayer has been a source of strength.

My loving and giving have felt unappreciated, and Jesus said He understands.

Yes, as parents we teach our children so much.  But I think God uses them to teach us even more.  And if I seem to have gone from Lesson 101 in some areas to 201 and 801…it should be not surprise me that some of the same challenges with our children come around again.

I’m ready to get off the carousel.  Probably the roller coaster is next.

What about you?  What lessons are you still learning?

C2012 Judy Douglass

.Related articles:

Go Low–A Path to Selflessness

It’s Okay Not to Speak French

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Today I’m sharing My Hazardous Faith Story as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus. See how you can participate below.

by Judy Douglass

I’m a giver.

I love to give—encouraging words, desirable gifts, needed money.  And life challenges.

I always want my gifts to please, lift, help, awaken…

God is also a giver.

He assures us that He gives good gifts.

My experience, however, has been that His gifts often have deeper purposes.

Sometimes they are truly hazardous.

The most hazardous gift God has given me is our son.

Twenty years ago God sent a nine-year-old boy from a very difficult situation to our family.  From the beginning, he provided significant challenges for us. He came with the results of his birth mother’s neglect, alcohol and drug abuse:  learning disabilities, ADD, attachment issues, no ability to reason cause and effect, incredible need for center of attention. That was just the beginning.

By his late teens, we were fully into the world of rebellion, poor choices and their consequences.

Our son took us into places we knew nothing about. Calls from the school principal were not to tell of his latest accomplishment, but about his latest escapade and the possibility of expulsion.  We became familiar with the juvenile justice system and traffic court.  Would the late-night calls be from the jail or the hospital—we got both.  He and his friends lied to, stole from, took advantage of and abused us and our home.   Drugs, alcohol, sex, accidents…

The way was deep and dark.

This was a gift?

Oh yes.  Hazardous for sure, but surely a gift.

Amazingly, this boy had a positive impact on our ministry. Because we did not hide our struggle, but lived out the journey in appropriate ways before our staff, we found new doors of ministry opened.

The greatest impact was on my relationship with God. We were helpless and therefore driven into His arms. My honesty with, trust in and hope in God all grew in amazing ways.

A wonderful online prayer community—PrayerforProdigals.com—and a June 2 Worldwide Prodigal Prayer Day blesses thousands around the globe.  It is truly my son’s ministry.  And he still gets prayed for.

God gave many other specific gifts through this one hazardous gift:

I know I am totally dependent on God—I have never been able to make his life work the way I wish it would.

I learned to pray—really.

I know for sure that God will never give up on me—and He enabled me to not give up on that boy.

I have a better understanding of unconditional love—and that it doesn’t require love in return.

I am able to attest to God’s unfathomable love and grace.  I am so grateful for that love and grace.

I am able to share hope and courage with others.  And more.

So this is where I tell you all is well, right?  We’ve weathered the storm and survived this hazardous gift.

Well, mostly.  He has become a responsible, hard-working man.  He desires to make right choices. He brings joy to me.  But he finds it hard to entirely escape the darkness. Things from his past still come back to bite.  We’re in a little bit of a hard place right now.

I wouldn’t, however, trade this gift for anything.  Sure, life would have been easier, safer without him.   But the gifts produced by struggle and pain make him a valuable gift, a priceless treasure. Plus I really love him. Thank You, Lord, for such an incredible gift!

What about you?  Has God given you a hazardous gift?

C2012 Judy Douglass

Click over to the Synchroblog.

How to Join the HAZARDOUS Synchroblog

The synchroblog starts Monday, August 27th and runs all week until Saturday.

Write a blog post sharing a personal story about a challenge you faced as a follower of Jesus. (You could also add: “I’m sharing My Hazardous Faith Story as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus.”).

At the bottom of your post, link to the synchroblog landing page: http://wp.me/PewoB-SN so that others can share their own Hazardous Faith Stories (Hey, you can just copy and paste these bullet points!)

Add your post to the link up section at the bottom of the My Hazardous Faith Story landing page on Monday-Saturday. Don’t forget to read and comment on at least one other post!

Tweet your post with the #HazardousFaith tag.

Include this image with your post: 400 pixels or 250 pixels width.

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It was joy for this mother’s heart!  My younger daughter, Michelle, opening gifts at a shower for her first baby.  My older daughter, Debbie, mother of three boys, warmly giving words of wisdom for her sister.

And words of wisdom for the rest of us.  Here are a few of the thoughts Debbie shared with Michelle:

This child will grow in many ways over the next year/years.  You will not automatically become a selfless, joyful mother.  It will be years of becoming.  You will daily be given a choice to fully embrace this gift by giving fully of yourself in order to be filled again by the Lord.  Or you can daily move backwards in selfish frustration. (This is a choice everyone faces, not just mothers.)

Some pathways to selflessness, still being learned 6 ½ years in:

Prayer—seeking time alone when possible, praying often–especially in the crazy times.

Thanksgiving—seeing each child, each event as a gift, and giving thanks as an act of worship.

Joy—making music in my heart, laughing, singing, playing, having fun with my children

Not only do you get to raise a child in the Lord and get to be transformed to be more like the Lord, but in a way that is a mystery to me, you are bringing glory to God.

Debbie really touched and challenged me with this poem from Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard:

Song of the Water

Come, oh come, let us away—lower, lower every day

Oh, what joy it is to race, to find the lowest place

This the dearest law we know—“It is happy to go low.”

Sweetest urge and sweetest will, “Let’s go down lower still.”

Hear the summons night and day, calling us to come away.

From the heights we leap and flow, to the valleys down below.

Always answering to the call, to the lowest place of all.

Sweetest urge and sweetest pain, to go low and rise again.

That’s what being a mother calls for all the time—going without sleep, getting the last of dinner, foregoing my plans to be part of their plans,  giving up my time to read a book to a child.  It’s about sacrifice, unselfishness.  It’s about going low.

And that’s also the life Christ lived and called us to:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)


What about you?  What has helped you to “go low”?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Josh with Mimi and Papa

The phone rang at 11 p.m.

I always hate late-night calls.  Especially when the voice on the other end says, “Mrs. Douglass? This is Officer Brown.”

Oh no.

“I have your son here on I-95.  He wants to talk to you.”

It was nothing serious. Sigh of relief.  Josh’s truck had quit running as he and his friend Dustin were on their way to visit Josh’s grandparents.  They had been sitting on the side of the highway—at mile marker 237– for two hours before Officer Brown came to their rescue.

I called AAA and headed out for the hour drive to meet the tow-truck.  Usually you wait a long time, but this time the tow truck was fast and about to leave when I arrived.  I sent him back to Orlando to deliver Josh’s green Ranger to our mechanic.

And Josh and friend and I headed home.  They begged me to take them on to Mimi and Papa’s, but I said no.

Five miles farther north and I could turn around and head home.  We were making good time going south on I-95 till mile marker 232.  Then a tire on a semi right in front of us peeled off and slammed under my car.  I lost power immediately and coasted to the side of the road.

So I sheepishly called AAA again.  “Guess what?  I need another tow truck.”

“Sorry, Mrs. Douglass.  You are in the middle of nowhere and the only truck just headed to Orlando towing your other vehicle.  It will be two hours before we get a truck to you.”

He was right on.  For two hours we waited—from 12:30-2:30.  The night was hot and sticky.  With no power we couldn’t run the ac.  We were parked next to a swamp, and the mosquitos were merciless.  And I had failed to bring food or drinks—the boys had had nothing since 8 p.m.

Josh was miserable.  Even distraught.

I just kept laughing, which made him angry.  I kept thanking God, and he was incredulous.

“Why not laugh?” I said.  “Complaining will not change our circumstances, but laughing and thanking change my attitude.  And it will make a great story.”

Finally the tow truck arrived.  “Sorry lady.  Our insurance doesn’t allow me to carry 3 passengers.  Can someone stay here?”

Hmm, would that be one or two 16-year-old boys, or one mom?  On the side of the road, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere?  No.

So he drove us to the next exit and left us at a closed service station.  Again I laughed, and said, “Thank You, Lord.”

I called a friend who drove the hour to pick us up.  A quick stop at a rest area with vending machines and restrooms, and we headed home.

At 5 a.m. we all went to bed.

And to this day we talk about the night we spent on I-95.  Josh  began to understand that laughing and saying “Thank You, Lord” made a bad situation not so bad.

And it has been a great story!

What about you?  When have laughter and gratitude made bad not so bad?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Debbie, Josh, Michelle

I have received many wonderful Mother’s Day Gifts from my three children—and I have been grateful for each one.  But they have given me gifts they didn’t even know, and those have been the best of all.  I’m sure I could think of dozens, but here are 7 life-changing presents from my two daughters and my son.

1.  Gratitude

I never get over that God would entrust these little lives to me.  As Debbie and Michelle were born, and as Josh came as a 9-year-old, I have found myself overwhelmed that God gave me such gifts.   And as they have grown up, I have realized what transforming gifts they have been.  Thank You, Lord.

2.  Humility

I knew parenting would be challenging, but I had no idea how totally inadequate I was.  On the days of their births, and every day since, I have been over my head.  So humbling.  Gratefully I have had family, friends and books to help.   But most of all, God has been there every step of the way, giving wisdom, encouragement, strength, love and everything else I have needed.  The humility, of course, is still in process.

3.  Selflessness

I had children later in life, and I thought I had, for the most part, grown out of my adolescent self-focus.  But when I took Debbie, my lovely first child, home, I discovered I knew nothing about selflessness.  Any newborn takes more time, attention, care, patience—everything—than you can imagine.

But Debbie had 24-hour colic and rarely slept.  She required all of me.  For several months there was almost no opportunity for me to focus on myself.  Thank you, Debbie, for taking me giant leaps forward in learning to get over my self-centeredness.  Still growing, of course.

4.  Forgiveness

We all make many mistakes in our parenting.  I have made more than my share.  A few years ago my husband’s radio program was doing a surprise program on our family.  They asked  each of our children what they had learned from us.  Michelle said, “From my mom I learned to ask for forgiveness.”

You see, Michelle approaches life differently than I do, and too often I tried to squeeze her into the mold of my life.   So I often had to ask her for forgiveness.  Which she generously gave.  Thank you, Michelle, for forgiving and for teaching me to ask for that mercy.

5.  Perseverance

Rearing children is a long process.  Though supposedly we have completed our assignment in 18-22 years, those of us beyond that know we never really stop being mothers.  There are many normal days, frequent times of celebration and rejoicing, and always some difficult days.

Because Josh came to us from a difficult situation, he brought with him many challenges.  His challenges, of course, became ours.  We and he had many hard days and hard years as he grew out of that troubled boyhood into the man he has become.  Thank you, Josh, for helping me to learn to never give up, to be tenacious, to persevere.

6.  Prayer

I knew how to pray.  I had been a child of God, and serving in ministry, for many years when my first child was born.  Of course I knew how to pray.

But as each child revealed my inadequacy and my weaknesses, as their needs required more wisdom than I had, as life for all of us included pain and trial, I have learned to go to my Father.  To tell Him how I feel, to express what I think I—and my children—need, to pour out my heart, to beg and plead, to thank Him.  I find my prayers are best prayed with open hands—not holding on to my demands, but allowing God to take out and put in His best answers.  Thank you, Debbie, Michelle and Josh, for teaching me to really pray.

7.  Love

Of course we love our children.  As we carry them for 9 months, when they are first placed in our arms, or if they come to us some other way, we are amazed at the intensity of the love we feel for them.

But life tests that love.  Especially when they aren’t always lovable.  When they are whiny and crabby.  When nothing you do satisfies.  When they are disobedient, even defiant.  When they make increasingly bad choices.  And especially when they yell hateful words at us and reject us and what we stand for.

When those things happen—and they did—God reminded me that unconditional love , by definition, keeps loving no matter what they say or do, or even if they don’t love in return.  Thank you, my wonderful children, for being God’s instruments for me to learn to receive and live out His unconditional love.

Debbie, Michelle and Josh, thank you for being God’s good gifts to me.  And as each of you has entered into this wonderful parenting and journey, may God surprise you with the transforming gifts those children will be to you.  I love you.

What about you?  What gifts have others given you?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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As parents we have responsibility to love, nurture, provide, teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society. Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives. I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me. This lesson comes from my #2 child, Michelle.

My husband and I are fairly goal oriented.  We both like to plan and check things off a list and feel like we have accomplished something at the end of the day.

We are both intentional.  Most things we do have purpose and lead us to accomplishing things than matter to us.

We are both somewhat competitive.  We love sports.  We make up games to keep us motivated for things we need to do.

These are not the only things true of us—we have a relaxed side as well.  But these are true.

When Debbie was born, it did not take us long to realize she fit right in—we saw glimpses of the same values and tendencies from an early age.

When Michelle was born, it did not take us long to realize that Michelle was not like this at all.  She was a lover of people, not accomplishments.  She was an artist, an actress, a listener. She wasn’t in a hurry and she hated competition.  She loved the journey, and the destination usually didn’t matter. (See Enjoy the Journey.)

This caused frustration between Debbie and Michelle.  Debbie wanted everything to be a contest; Michelle refused to engage that way.  Debbie wanted active play; Michelle preferred quiet play.  Debbie wanted a neat room; Michelle was content with clutter.

Debbie and Michelle

It also caused frustration between Mom and Dad and Michelle.  I thought we should be on time ; Michelle took her time.  Dad loved coaching his girls in soccer; Michelle was on the team for her friends.  We knew our girls would do well in school; Michelle was bright and excelled, but she was not driven.

I was talking with a friend who was a counselor about our struggle to be good parents to Michelle when she approached life so differently.  She gave me a great analogy:

“It’s like your family speaks German.  You, your husband and Debbie are fluent in German.  Michelle speaks French.  She has tried really hard to learn German, but it isn’t her mother tongue.  The rest of the family tries to speak French with her occasionally, then quickly reverts to native German.

“It’s okay for Michelle to speak French.”

That was a turning point for me.  I accepted that Michelle didn’t have to be like the rest of us.  I began to change my language with her.  I quit chiding her to hurry, she quit playing soccer, I found an art teacher for her, I quit telling her TV (which she loved) was junk food for her mind, I took her to art festivals.

It took time, but I really began to let her be who God created her to be.

I began to believe:  It’s okay to speak French.

What about you?  Do you live or work with someone who approaches life differently?  How can you encourage them to speak their natural language?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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As parents we have responsibility to love and nurture and provide and teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society. Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives. I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me. This lesson comes from my #2 child, Michelle.

From the day she was born, Michelle has not been in a hurry. She slept much of her first year (I don’t wake sleeping babies). She cuddled, laughed, listened a lot and talked enough.

She played quietly, explored, created, painted, invented, rescued.

But she never rushed.

I’m more of a destination person. She’s more of a journey person. I like to get there. She likes the getting there.

Probably the words she heard most from me, after “I love you.” and “Please forgive me.” were “Hurry up, we’re late.”

“We will be late to church, Michelle.” “Carpool is waiting, Michelle.” “We need to get to soccer practice, Michelle.”

Nothing hurried her. But I know I frustrated her, discouraged her, hurt her.

Over time, I began to hear the Lord whispering, “What’s your hurry, Judy?”

And he reminded me of those famous sisters, Mary and Martha.

Martha was focused on getting dinner ready. She rushed around, fretting that Mary wasn’t helping her.

And Mary? She was enjoying Jesus. Listening, learning, reflecting.

Slowly Michelle’s ability to live in the present, her not hurrying to the future, began to rub off on me. I still like to get things done, and I usually have a long list. But I have learned to let things go, to stop for people in my life, to leave tasks for another day.

I don’t get as much done. But I enjoy the journey so much more.

C 2011 Judy Douglass

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As parents we have responsibility to love and nurture and provide and teach and train our children to become responsible, moral, hardworking, creative, authentic adults and contributors to society.  Most of us try to do something like that, with varying degrees of competency and success.

But I’ve found that God seems to have an equally important role for our children in our lives.  I will try to share a few of the things my kids have taught me.  I’ll start with #1 child, Debbie.


Before Debbie was born, I was a magazine editor.  I was totally enmeshed in producing that wonderful publication.  I loved that we had a specific schedule for each month, week, day.  The magazine was so compliant.  Every month it came out on time and it was beautiful.

I stepped away from that responsibility shortly before my lovely daughter was born.  It occurred to me I would need to learn to be a little more flexible about my schedule.  But I read all the books, and I was pretty sure I could get Debbie on a good routine.

Surprise!  Debbie had colic.  Not the evening kind.  Or the afternoon and evening kind.  The all day and night kind.  Her tummy hurt.  She cried.  And cried.  And cried.

And she didn’t sleep.  A few hours each night—maybe 5-6.  But that was it.  No naps.  I read that “your baby will cut back to 14-16 hours of sleep, then 12-14.”  How about 5-6?

My day went like this:  Up by 5 or 6 with a screaming baby.  An hour of nursing (no crying then).  A few minutes of peace—quick put some clothes on.  Then carry her, entertain her, sing to her, anything to get her not to cry until the 2-hour mark when I could feed her again.  Repeat.  Until midnight.

For four months.

I cried almost as much as Debbie did.  I was sure I would never be rested again, never clean and dressed and presentable again, and for sure I would never be in control of my life again.

“Lord,” I said desperately, “this is not working.  I am no good at this mothering thing.  I am not the right mother for this child.”

He was very gentle in His reply:  “Oh Judy, you are exactly right for Debbie—the one I created and chose to love and nurture and comfort her in her great discomfort.

“But she is also just right for you.  I created her to help you learn some important lessons:  People are not magazines.   You are not in control.  Things will not happen according to your schedule.  You need to learn to let go, to flex, to relax.”

“But I don’t like not being in control.”


Then:  “Judy, I am in control.  I know much better than you the what and when and how for your life—and for Debbie’s.  Rest in Me.  You won’t be disappointed.

“My plan and schedule and timing are perfect.”

I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.(Isaiah 60:22)

More from “What I Learned from My Children” series:

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Debbie has always hated to lose.

So when the Krazy Kittens, her soccer team of 7-year-olds, got behind 4-0, she had had it.  The other team was much better, and it was apparent the Kittens weren’t going to score much.  So the coach, recognizing Debbie’s passion, put her in the goal—her first time ever.

She was ferocious.  Leaping high to make saves.  Diving down, risking fingers and head.  Fighting for the ball.  One stop.  Another.  People came from surrounding soccer fields to watch this tiny tornado.

The final score?  4-0.  She made 25 stops.

Reckless abandon.

Oh, that I would always live with such reckless abandon.  Such wholehearted passion.  Such fiery spirit.

It’s what God calls us to.  I believe it’s to be the norm, not the exception:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

That’s everything.  Nothing held back.    No settling.  Love and live with a whole heart!

Debbie believed she could make a difference—and she did.

I believe I can make a difference for the Kingdom of God.  And I will.

If a 7-year-old can risk her hands and head to save goals, certainly I can risk everything—even my life—to save souls.

c2011 Judy Douglass

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